I hate losing, so I am not a fan of casinos as a rule.
After all, casinos weren’t built to give away money to those who gamble there.
But as a person who has a genetic disdain for rules, I occasionally follow my wife and friends to French Lick to try my hand at a rigged game of chance or two.
One of these rare experiences came Saturday night. Good friends invited us to a family gathering at the casino, so we went.
To try to maximize my enjoyment of the experience, I follow a few very simple rules that I help keep my head from exploding as I wager hard earned cash.
10 – Bring only the money you can afford to leave at the casino – and NEVER go to the ATM while there. This is pretty self-explanatory, but one of the tactics I employ to manage the cash I gamble with is to watch others I care about as they gamble. I’m a decent spectator, so taking an hour off here and there as my wife or friends get busy is plenty entertaining for me. Once you lose your cash on hand, unplug from the gaming and retire. Don’t turn a bad beat into and nightmare that costs you the ability to pay your mortgage.
9 – Don’t gamble drunk. Judgement is not enhanced with excess alcohol. You might think boozing makes you more charming and intelligent, but that’s not the case. If you feel like you would have a tough time driving, gather your chips and head for the buffet. Or go to the bar and start dancing. You’ll look ridiculous, but at least it’s free.
8 – Tip the dealer. If you are on a roll, it’s good karma to thank the dealer with a chip or two. Good karma doesn’t mean a damn thing to the cards or dice, but being a nice guy or girl has the reward of making you feel better as a human being – a rare occurrence in a casino.
7 – If you aren’t enjoying yourself, do something else. No one sentenced you to 18 hours of nonstop gaming, so if you haven’t smiled in a half-hour, go do something else – anything else. Manic marathon gambling is not good for the soul, or your wallet.
6 – Stay away from Pai Gow. This is a game where it is hard to lose and even harder to win. It’s the game you play when bored and need to safely kill an hour before going to dinner or a show. At least that’s the experience of playing Pai Gow 95% of the time. The other 5%, you get caught in a vortex of ridiculous cards that strip you of hundreds of dollars very quickly. This is the most evil of all casino card games because it appears to be so benign.
5 – Bet with – not against – the table. This is a craps specific rule that is a must. The fun of craps is that the entire table is rooting for the same result – no craps (a roll of seven after the mark is set). Entire tables can make money together, and there is a vibe of oneness that is only felt while playing craps. That is unless a pain in the ass starts betting the don’t pass line, which means he wants a seven after the mark is set. As the rest of the table loses, he wins – or vice versa. On Saturday, an aggressively anti-social fellow was betting five grand on the don’t pass line. The table loathed him and rejoiced as he lost $15K in three minutes. It was hard to tell whether the table was happier they won or he lost.
4 – NEVER play catch up. If you lose, resist the urge to make the money back by dipping into the grocery fund. Chasing lost money is a great way to invite meaningful consequences into your gambling. It’s funny how chasing lost money is usually preceded by having quite a few drinks. Take a deep breath and walk out of the room – if you can find the exit..
3 – If you win, buy drinks. This is another good karma move. Not everyone wins. If you are in a group of eight, it’s likely that five are going to take it in the shorts. The other three should take care of the bar tab. When I won $500 Saturday night on a silly Wheel of Fortune slot bet, I went straight to the bar and picked up a round.
2 – Play your way. Gambling is personal, and especially in blackjack you can be bullied by icy stares by abandoning logic to split tens or hitting 13 against a 13. The unpleasantness stems from changing the order of the cards because you indulged in bad math intuition. To hell with those elitist clowns. You feel lucky, go with it, and ignore to cool breeze of loathing.
1 – When a casino hands you money, thank them and keep it in your pocket. Like I told you earlier, I won $500 on my third spin of a silly slots game. That money went in my pocket. I played a little blackjack after that, but only casually, and I won there too. I happily walked out of the casino with almost every dollar I won. Don’t be wooed by the thrill of winning. Turning $100 into $500 is almost never followed by turning $500 into $2,500. If someone walking down the street handed you $700 (or $70), would you argue? Hell, no. Don’t argue with the casino when it hands you more money than you walked in with. And forget about the thought that because you won you are gambling with their money. Once you win it, that money is yours.
Kent Sterling hosts the fastest growing sportstalk show in Indianapolis on CBS Sports 1430 every weekday from 3p-6p, and writes about Indiana sports at kentsterling.com.